Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Friday, November 29, 2013

November End of the Month View

It's hard to believe that November is almost over and I haven't done any shopping for Christmas yet. Yikes!  My sister from Alaska did all her shopping for relatives in this area while she was here for Thanksgiving and distributed her gifts then too.  Being the oldest sister, she's always a few steps (more like a mile) ahead of the rest of us in getting things done in a timely manner and shopping year round for thoughtful gifts.  I, on the other hand, will be wondering what people might want up until Christmas eve. and then sending gift cards via the internet at the last minute. 
On Saturday, I took a walk around the garden with my camera in hand and decided to find things that make me happy about what winter will bring.
The contorted filbert will loose it's leaves exposing it's beautiful twisted branches.

Yucca 'Color Guard' will look gorgeous all winter and I'll smile when seeing it because giant allium bulbs are planted in the pot and will make a gorgeous color combination next summer.

My persimmon tree has produced three fruits, a bumper crop by it's standards.  It came with me as a small tree from my former garden, lost it's leader when a huge branch from the Albizia julibrissin decided to fall on it.  Now the poor thing sprawls but has nice foliage and the original thought was that a leafless tree full of orange fruit would look festive against the evergreen foliage behind.  I threaten to remove it every year but don't.  What would you do?

The black mondo grass that has spread around my beds is the star in winter when the herbaceous plants that grow around them are gone.

Variegated Fatsia japonica will look great all winter unless the pot that it's growing in gets a clogged drain hole, traps water and drowns the poor thing.

Cyclamen foliage adds beautiful green all winter long.

This variegated giant grass looks great now but even after it's brown, it will contribute lovely structure and movement. 

It's a little over 10 feet tall and decided that the heavy rains we had a couple of months ago were too much for it and it sprawled out all over everything beneath it.  Oh well.
 Berberis 'Orange Rocket'  holds on to it's glorious foliage longer than a lot of deciduous shrubs.  Now if I could finally get rid of that fern that volunteered there, life would be great.  The acacia pravissima on the right will look great towering over everything unless it dies this year.

I understand now why people like palms so much.  They look great all of the time!

 Winter tidies up a bid so that the garden paths will become a little more visible again.

The bottle tree is pretty much covered with foliage all summer but now will add a little winter color.  It's blurry but the Mahonia behind the bottles is beginning to bloom.

As the banana begins to droop from the frost, what we call the Dr. Seuss tree, that topiary that adds some needed structure to the jungle, can be seen from the back door again.

The Buddha above the water feature which all summer hides behind the magnolia foliage once again greets me.
 I'm hoping this new puya will be happy this winter.  It's growing sideways so should get very little water on it's roots this year.

A few maple leaves still showing color but the euonymus behind  is a delightful variegated broadleaved evergreen.  Yea.

The red berries of Cotoneaster lacteus will add their nice red punctuation all winter before I have to find a place to plant it permanently.  Acacia dealbata in the black pot will be pulled inside if the temps get too low.
 Rubus thibetanus (Ghost Bramble)  is showing it's ghostly white color nicely.  Maybe I shouldn't have cut it back so hard but I need to get back there and pull a lot of that hedera helix that keeps planting itself and growing hidden beneath the summer foliage.  BTW the leaves on everything are a protective organic mulch NOT a symptom of LGS (Lazy Gardener Syndrome.)
 Some rogue tetrapanax - can't bring myself to pull them all because they add such an interesting tropical canopy over the path in the summer.  Someday Schefflera delavayi over by the bench will be large enough to walk under.

 Arbutus unedo flowers and fruit decorate the path.  Sweeping these away would deprive us all of this delightful aesthetic experience. 

Or maybe I'm just in denial about my LGS.

Going back.  Love that the variegated Azara microphylla has now attained enough size to really stand out.

 I'm joining with Helen Johnstone at The Patient Gardener in her End of the Month View meme.  To see other end of the month posts, please click on this link to visit her blog!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a a special holiday for me because for the last 25 years, except for last year, I've hosted family and friends from Vermont, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington.  My favorite part is setting the table with dishes that were my mother's, silver that was her mother's, depression glass that was a gift to my mother from one of my father's sisters, was given to my eldest sister who gave it to me, a cow-shaped creamer that was my grandfather's, mother's, brother's and upon his death, mine, stemware that was a gift from my youngest (still older than me!) sister, a silly Italian nut dish with a three dimensional squirrel sitting on the edge, a gift from the former owners of our current house with the words, "this was always our Thanksgiving nut dish."   I treasure touching these things each year and feeling connected to those I love but see no longer, and those still living that may not be able to be present each year. It's not necessarily the kind of table setting that Martha would rave about or Inna would feature on her show but it warms my heart to share the stories and see the youngest members of the family touching the long line of love represented at each place at the table.
My mother's family lived in Vermont for centuries (some still do!) She sometimes missed her New England home and family.   This time of year, my heart sometimes travels to the small Alaskan town in which I grew up and the many love-filled holidays spent there.  Found this little plate on sale recently and thought it needed to be added to the traditional pieces.  Perfect size for fudge..
Where does your heart travel on Thanksgiving? 
O.K. enough of that.  Here's something for which I'm thankful:  Although it's bloomed prolifically for 14 years now, this is the first time that  my Magnolia macrophylla  has produced seeds. 
 It's a special thing because the fruits are so cool looking!

"Although it may look like a cone, it is actually an aggregate fruit that is woody. This flowering structure has changed little over millions of years. Magnolias are some of the most primitive of all flowering plants, but the seeds are enclosed in the fruit during their development, and therefore they must be classified as angiosperms, not as gymnosperms-the group to which conifers belong. As the fruit matures, scale-like areas on it split apart and the seeds, covered in a red fleshy aril, are exposed as they are in gymnosperms."    -From the U.S. National Arboretum website   
 Yes, I'm thankful for lots of other gifts from my garden, many of which you'll see tomorrow in my end of the month View post.

Wherever you find yourself today, my wish is that you'll feel surrounded by love and filled with gratitude for your many blessings!  Or at least not be too horribly bitter. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pernettya mucronata, My Favorite Plant in the Garden this Week

I love this plant so much that although my garden already has this beautiful specimen, I bought another last time I visited Vassey Nursery!    What's not to love.  The tiny rich green leaves are never alone on the plant as they are always joined by flowers and/or berries.  The spring floral show is very nice and often the berries from last year cling to the plant through the bloom cycle and into the new fruit production.  

I first read about this plant in Dan Hinkley's book Winter Ornamentals  in which he writes the following:  "A genus of evergreen shrubs knows as Pernettya is found natively in south America, New Zeland, and Tasmania, although many species thrive in the maritime Northwest...P. mucronata, with small, dark green, needlelike leaves densely covering upright stems of cherry red.  In late spring, bright white flowers are pervasively tucked among the foliage, yet it is not unti9l late autumn that the resultant succulent fruit ripens to shades of red, pink, or white.  This low- to medium-sized species easily gains in stature to 5 feet.  Remove vigorous upright stems to easily control it as a medium-high ground-covering shrub that remains in fruit throughout the autumn and into winter."   My original plant seems to be content staying at about 3 feet all by itself. 
 The taxonomists are at it again and Gaultheria mucronata is synonymous with Pernettya mucronata although Gaultheria is a large family of which Pernettya is a member.  Then there's  Gaultheria  x wisleyensis 'Wisley Pearl' that is lovely and sometimes confused with Pernettya in the trade. Often, at this time of year, we see Gaultheria procumbens, (creeping wintergreen) another member of the tribe used in mixed pots. But I digress and Mr. Hinkley is far more interesting.
 "All Pernettya species benefit from full-sun situations and acidic soils.  Once established, they do not require summer water.  Because individual plants may be either male or female or may have flowers of both sexes, you may not need to have more than one plant to have fruit.  However, chances for a larger crop of colorful berries are enhanced if you plant both sexes."
Ideal companions are other acid-loving plants, such as Erica (heaths) and Calluna (heathers), Gaultheria, and Rhododendron.  Pernettya fruit is edible, though it imparts more of a colorful and refreshing squeeze of moisture than real taste."

For more great information about this plant, visit Paghat's Garden here and for the fun an informative and funny article "Are Pernettya Berries Edible or Poisonous" go here.

I'm joining other garden bloggers in the My Favorite Plant This Week meme hosted by Loree at Danger Garden.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Cold Shoulder or The Toast Report

We've had a nice stretch of clear weather which means that the night temperatures have been in the upper twenties/lower thirties (F) which is chilly for us.  For those of you in cold climate areas, you may laugh uproariously now.  Go ahead, we'll wait...

In my garden, there has not been the beautiful sparkling frost that I've seen in some areas on my short commute but the temperatures have taken their toll nonetheless.   On Saturday, I wandered outside to see how things were doing.

It would seem that Musa basjoo is a little burned on top but the lower leaves are still green.

I'll miss those lazy green sails that would catch every breeze and sway ever so gently.  The Persicaria at it feet is bent on world domination and may just be removed next spring along with several others in various parts of my garden. 

There's a smaller clump of M. basjoo in a more protected area which has escaped damage for now. 
I didn't venture out to the parking strips where the tetrapanax are/were blooming.  They're surrounded by concrete/asphalt and the warmth of cars parked next to them sometimes gives a little protection.  However the tetrapanax "weeds"  (they've been removed several times- I gave up) inside the garden gates have had their last green days for this season.

Zantedeschia aethiopica 'White Giant'  looks pretty sad. A once huge clump of tropical looking foliage has been reduced to this. 

The Ensete ventricosums are in the totally toast category.  I decided not to bring store them in the basement this winter.  For some reason this year they were very slow to recover.  I may replace one of them next year.
Or maybe I'll take this one inside.  Notice that the Pelargonium "Palace Gem"  whose foliage I'm crazy about is still looking perky.  come to think of it, so is the foliage of that cordyline shoved in the same pot. Hmmm. 
The glorious warm-colored part of autumn is over and things are beginning to look bare.  I welcome the change, the cleaning  that winter will bring but still wish that winter didn't have to come  so soon. 

From the Opera Vanessa, libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti, music by Benjamin Britten comes the aria "Must the Winter Come so Soon."  Vanessa sings of a harsher winter than what we in the PNW experience but I always think of this aria as winter approaches.

Must the winter come so soon?
Night after night I hear the hungry deer
wander weeping in the woods,
and from his house of brittle bark hoots the frozen owl.
Must the winter come so soon?
Here in this forest neither dawn nor sunset
marks the passing of the days.
It is a long winter here.
Must the winter come so soon?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Tropical Paradise Just up the Street

This time of year, it's just starting to get light  when I go to work and dark when I return so I only wander around my own garden on weekends.  Now that freezing weather has arrived and the abundance of the summer garden is a fond memory, it's sometimes nice to walk up the street to the Seymour Conservatory to see what's happening in that tropical paradise. See previous visits here and here.
This guy is always glad to see you no matter the weather! 

Inside, potted blooming Rhododendron Konori  were scattered throughout adding their sweet perfume to that of the lemon tree.  Smells like summer here!

These lemons are huge!  I wonder who gets to make lemonade with these beauties?

What a treat to walk beneath This Ponderosa Lemon Hybrid laden with cheerful yellow fruit!

Coleus still adding a pleasant jolt of color until it's replaced by hundreds of  poinsettias and amaryllis for December. 

I wonder if all the great ornamental peppers get to stay for another month?  They sure look festive to me!

My previous post was all about the display of exhibition chrysanthemums.  Here's a view  that includes some of them. 

And another.  When interspersed with the tropical/ sub tropical foliage, the mums look exotic, as if they belong in such a setting. 

Bowiea volubilis, also known as Climbing onion is an easy to grow succulent. 

Speaking of plants that enjoy an arid environment...

Bird of paradise jumping out of the corner to make us take notice.  (Am I the only one reminded of the bird in the Crazy for Cocoa Puffs commercial?)

Where are we again?  This fellow took a left at Chichen Itza and think that maybe he misread the map.  Of course, being a guy, he wouldn't stop for directions so look where he ended up!

Euphorbia anyone?  What a thrill to see this one that's way over my head!

It's not often that the plants tell you what to do.

I'm glad this orchid did though because the flowers smelled like bubble gum to me.

The Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) seems to like it here. 

Here is an image of the wife of the guy from the earlier picture.  She's sticking her tongue out at him saying, "I told you to so!"

The kid in the back seat saying, "I'm tired and thirsty!  Can we please stop for a drink?"

The Amorphophallus titanum  gets larger each time I visit.  I'm sure they'll make a big stink about it in the paper when it blooms.  (Get it, cause the huge bloom emits a strong fragrance  reminiscent of rotting flesh.)

My koi at home are moving rather slowly these days now that the weather is cold but these lucky beauties are active year round in their nicely heated environment.
This pond seems a little shallow but the fish don't seem to mind.  I always admire the beautiful long fins of butterfly koi.

What Seattle (home of the original Starbucks store) area conservatory would be complete without a coffee plant?

So, when do you pick them and how do you roast them?  Who thought of doing that to this berry in the first place?

More orchids.  The conservatory is run by Tacoma's Metro Parks which has huge greenhouses across town where plants get to grow throughout the year.  Only when they begin to bloom are they brought to the conservatory for the public to enjoy.  What fun it would be to make these living arrangements!
As Danger says, "There's always an Agave."  Although there is an interesting blurb about the native habitat of the plant, etc.  it's called a Century Plant which is a lovely common name but I sort of wondered if it was Agave americana or something else.
In case you want to take home a pup from the pound. 
What a treat to have summer just a few minutes from my house no matter how cold and wet it gets outside.